April 16, 2014
Google and Facebook aren’t the only ones trying to beam down connectivity from the sky: DARPA, the US Defense Department’s advanced research agency, is trying to turn drones into hotspots for high-speed wireless networks, and it recently completed an initial testing and development phase on the program working toward that goal. The major developments were in the creation of steerable antennas and efficient radio amplifiers for the hotspots. DARPA also created a housing for the hotspots, which will eventually be mounted on drones that have traditionally been used for surveillance.
DARPA’s hope is to have the hotspot’s communication speeds rival those of a 4G cell network, eventually allowing the drones to easily extend connectivity into remote locations where the military may be otherwise unable to access intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance data. The hotspot program began back in 2012, and it just started its second phase last month, in which it will begin to integrate the wireless radios onto ground vehicles. The hotspots will eventually be tested on a network of multiple drones in the third and final phase.